In this episode, Andrew visits with Tom Ahern, communications guru and author of six books, including How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money and What Your Donors Want and Why. They discuss a variety of topics and strategies, all in the world of communications. Tom is a huge advocate for “donor centric” messaging and firmly believes that is the way to raising more money now and building long-term donor loyalty.
Tom also shares his thoughts on some new research on “identity based fundraising” and how nonprofits can incorporate very simple changes into their communication pieces.
It’s all in the execution.
Tom was a commercial marketer for 20 years through a variety of industries. He became involved with the non-profit world while helping his wife with her business.
He’s an avid reader and promotes the importance of learning from what’s available.
He saw a gap in the knowledge base of non-profit fundraising compared to his experience in commercial marketing. And discovered that “who’s your customer” was a question most non-profits couldn’t answer. The actual customer for fundraisers are the donors.
He talks about the hows and whys people make decisions, specifically, a purchase decision. What will move somebody to act?
Tom discusses the details of neurology and psychology and how that relates to interacting with your donors. How and why the heart leads decision making.
How did Tom get into the non-profit, donor-centric field?
Beginning with the changes that technology has brought to the human attention span. He talks about the study of the goldfish.
What Tom found was that fundraisers were trying to figure out how to do their work and not knowing how, they looked around and copied what others were doing. The problem in that is that you’re not bringing people what that want or need or crave.
People crave emotional gratification and a purpose in life. People need purpose. Something a charity can “sell” is a sense of purpose. But what’s being presented instead is, “look at what we’re doing.”
You have to deliver more than just, “we need money, will you help?” Most people that are giving are giving to more than just one charity. That means that the first gift is probably not going to be a large gift, if you are new to their “family” of charities. The second gift, if it exists is not going to be much larger. But what you need to do is give your donors an experience that brings that emotional gratification that they crave.
Identity Based Fundraising
Talk with older donors about their legacy.
Discusses the experimentation of having identity statements at the moment of giving. Example of statements on the giving page such as “I am giving because I believe in the work the organization is doing.”
Responsible fundraisers learn new things all the time.
Top three steps for someone just getting started:
What you’re trying to do is build a family of true believers who are trying to get something done.
The only purpose for donor communication is to make the person feel good. It’s not about giving information. There is so much information in the world, we don’t need more. We need emotional connection.
What are you working on now?
The Case Writers, a mastermind of resources.
What does a communication audit look like? Asking where do you want to go/end up? Now discuss what’s good and what’s not working.
Has a house in France, his wife’s family is originally from France. Most of their books get written or at least outlined there.
And here are my three takeaways:
Action item: this one pretty much wrote itself, but I think that the best thing that you can do this week is to review your website for donor centric language. I’d take Toms advice and go through the site and find all the “we’s” and just count them. If you finish your website, review your past couple of appeals and newsletters for the same thing.
If you want to connect with Tom, you can reach out to him at his new website www.aherncomm.com
If you have questions, or want to share a success story, email me at [email protected] or send us a Facebook message. We’re always happy to help. God bless.
What Your Donors Want and Why by Tom Ahern
If Only You'd Known by Tom Ahern
Red Teaming by Bryce Hoffman
"In a conference, what I'm really looking for is the practical TOOLS on how to do your job well and the MOTIVATION to go out and be ready to get back to work. I've gotten both of those things from Petrus. I'm really excited to get back home and HUSTLE and really put my all into it."